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A social enterprise that builds bikes from bamboo, empowering children in Ghana

“When we started this initiative, I looked back and said, when I was young, I had to walk miles before I could arrive at school, and sometimes if I was late, I was punished,” and from then on, Dapaah’s idea started changing the lives of thousands of children in Ghana.

Bernice Dapaah enjoys reusing bamboo to promote sustainable cycling, which has now become one of her favourite hobbies. But for her, this is way more than just a hobby. As one of the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leaders, Dapaah launched the Ghana Bamboo Bikes Initiative, a social enterprise that employs most women to create bamboo bicycles from scratch.

The bikes are then exported all over the world, the World Economic Forum analysis claimed.

Image credit Ghana Bamboo Bikes Initiative

The executive director of the Ghana Bamboo Initiative, Dapaah, explained that “The reason we use bamboo to manufacture bicycles is that it’s found abundantly in Ghana and this is not a material we’re going to import.

“It’s an innovation. There were no existing bamboo bike builders in our country, so we were the first people trying to see how best we could utilize the abundant bamboo in Ghana.”

There are about seven different species of bamboo in Ghana, covering about 300,000 hectares - 5% of Ghana’s whole forest land.

The “miracle plant”, as Dapaah calls the bamboo, which is very abundant in the country, constitutes also a “miracle” initiative. Indeed, for every bamboo plant that is not turned into a bike, the Ghana Bamboo Bikes Initiative plants 10 more bamboo plants.

Bamboo is a very strong vegetable, known in Africa to be stronger than steel thanks to its stretchy strength. While steel has a tensile strength of 23,000 pounds per square inch, bamboo surpasses steel with an evident lead of 28,000 pounds.

Image credit Ghana Bamboo Bikes Initiative

The initiative is not only beneficial to the planet but also to help students to save time to walk to school. A shorter journey to school can have a great impact on the academic performance, Dapaah’s points out, as students will have more time to learn by using the bikes manufactured by the Bamboo Bikes Initiative.

Dapaah, who is well-aware of the tiring journeys when it comes to walking miles and miles go to school to have an education, shared her experience with the World Economic Forum. “We had to walk three and a half hours every day before I could go to school,” she admitted.

And that is also how it all started. The inspiration for the Ghana Bamboo Bikes Initiative came when trying to find a solution to shorten the long walks to go to school.

So far, Ghana Bamboo Bikes Initiative has donated more than 10,000 bikes to school children over five years, allowing children to overpass 3,000 roads and mountain.

“When we started this initiative, I looked back and said, when I was young, I had to walk miles before I could arrive at school, and sometimes if I was late, I was punished.

“Why don’t we donate bikes for students to encourage them to study and so they can have enough time to be on books.”

Ghanaian entrepreneur, Bernice Dapaah launched the Bamboo Bikes initiative to help her country in the process of achieving sustainable development. Image credit Afrika News

Dapaah’s efforts in transforming her childhood experience into a social enterprise won her several international awards, including the 2013 UNFCCC Momentum For Change Light House Activity Award (Women For Results Category), World Business and Development Award 2012, UN-Habitat/Dubai International Best Practice Award 2012, Samsung/Generations For Peace Impact Award 2012, GIZ Impact Business Award 2011, and UNEP SEED Initiative Award 2010.

She was also named for the Vital Voices Lead Fellow in 2013, after winning the 2013 International Women Alliance World of Difference Award.


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